Joyful journey in the world of art

Social Practices
Forfatter: Chris Kraus
Forlag: Semiotext(e) (USA)
ARTIST LIFE: In Social Practices, Chris Kraus portrays the lives of various artists in a subtle collage of autobiographical texts. The book is about her self as much as the artists portrayed.


With his 26 essays, the American author and filmmaker Chris Kraus (b. 1955) explores the lives of various artists who work in different art styles such as performance, photography and visual art. The essays serve as short, critical biographies that describe her personal experiences with art and the artist. In addition, the book contains transcripts of her conversations with the artists who are represented, as well as a seven-year e-mail exchange with a Romanian woman who wants Kraus to write about this in her next book. She is well acquainted with Kraus' autobiographical writing style and wants to be known through her, something she also realizes with this release.

With Social Practices Kraus points out that art can be so much – in most cases an all-consuming and social life project, hence the title.

Autobiographical life project

The book is a result of Kraus' own "social practice," which began in the New York strip club environment in the late 1970s. In the essay "Trick" in the first chapter "Personal Histories" she describes how she, as a stripper, deceives men into buying champagne, in the same way that the art world is about cheating and negotiating for profits in a way that benefits one's self. «Who can afford to play the long game, and who plays the short? […] Hustling, not in a pejorative sense, but as a necessary, tactical logistic. ”

Kraus uncovers artists' brutal and beautiful reality.

In the essay "This is Chance", she then talks about one of her own art projects: "The Chance Event: Three Days in the Desert". This art event, curated by herself, brought together prominent philosophers such as Jean Baudrillard and artists and poets such as Allucquére Rosanne Stone and Diane di Prima as well as 600 participants to discuss the mystery surrounding "chance" (chance, chance or chance in Norwegian) at Whiskey Pete's Casino , in the middle of the Nevada desert, in November 1996. Kraus sums up the event as a kind of three-day marathon party: "Everyone made their own sense of what happened there, and at least one child was conceived."

She writes about how her letter resulted in her first novel, I Love Dick (1997), her time as an experimental filmmaker and her collaboration with Marco Vera and Richard Birkett on Radical Localism (2012): an exhibition on art and media from Mexicali – a city in Baja California, right on the US-Mexico border. Elegantly, she weaves her own autobiographical writing into the stories of the various artists, and in this way – between the lines – tells how all art is a social practice created by encounters with other people and artists.

Artist Cliches

A lot of sex, children with different partners, drugs, illness and mental disorders belong to the cliché of the free artist soul. When Kraus writes about contemporary artists Julie Becker, Kate Newby, Fernando Corona, Tao Wells, Lucie Stahl, Ryan McGinley, Yayoi Kusama and more, she confirms the existing artist clichés that I wish only existed in books and movies.
In the essay "Kate Newby's Bones," Kraus tells a true story of a beautiful and skinless actor named Lauren whom Kraus took acting lessons with in New York, and who worked as a waiter next door. "The typical actress cliche," I think as I read the tragic story, which, among other things, is about the relationship Lauren had to a director who left her: "Her real art was her life, but without a script, she was floundering."

Chris Kraus

Although I do not know any of the artists she writes about, I am drawn into her honest descriptions. As she writes herself: "My essays aren't analytical or discursive. I try to reflect the spirit of the artworks I'm writing about. ” And this she mastered excellently, without a single deadlock.
She writes unfiltered, sometimes in a stream of consciousness, about the art world. I experience the book as a literary art exhibition, seen through her eyes, and it is a joy to be part of this journey.

Life as art

In the middle of the reading, I come across the phrase: "Everyone wants to be an artist." I could not agree more with this statement. Wherever I have traveled, I have met artists in different fields – all with the same dream. Together with millions of others around the world, I dream of becoming a recognized actor someday. I spend my life in the arts and vice versa, working and dreaming about each other. Social Practices inspires me to keep dreaming, with my legs well planted on earth. Kraus uncovers the brutal and beautiful reality for artists. The "What I Couldn't Write" essay is about topics she either couldn't write about or complete, such as artists who commit suicide and become money lenders.

Although money is always, and most likely always will be, a point of contention in my life as an actor and writer, I have always managed to make it. There has been a lot of unconscious cheating, in other words. During the past year, I have been through a life crisis all alone in a foreign country, the art has been my salvation.

I have sought out art in museums, cinemas, theaters and books. Art became my refuge. It took away my loneliness and taught me to love life and myself again.

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